Skokholm Island, July 2017
Probably the highlight of my one week stay (apart from the compost toilets and the absence of showers!) was a night visit to the cliffs (organised by Richard, the warden) to see stormy petrels flying from their nests - with the aid of night vision goggles.
Skokholm Island lying south of the neighbouring Skomer Island, is situated around 2.5 miles off the spectacular Pembrokeshire Coast. The name ‘Skokholm’ is Norse for ’Wooded Island’. Skokholm is around a third of the size of Skomer, covering 260 acres. It is bounded by spectacular cliffs of old red sandstone that climb from 70 feet in the north-east to 160 feet in the south-west. It is a National & Marine Nature Reserve, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and part of the Skomer and Skokholm Special Protection Area.
Consistently battered by storms, the high cliffs, and isolated nature of the island make it a haven for breeding seabirds. In spring and summer Skokholm comes alive with huge populations of seabirds. Up to 5000 Puffins hustle and bustle about their burrows, while the cliffs and ledges are adorned with thousands of Razorbills and Guillemots, and up to 100 pairs of Fulmars.
Grassholm is one of the largest gannet colonies in the UK, outnumbered only by the huge populations at St Kilda and other parts of Scotland. The gannet, also known as the Solan goose, was a food source in olden days, and the fishermen of Marloes and Dale used to collect them and their eggs for food, a practice which still goes on at Ness in Scotland to this day. Its feathers were also prized as down for stuffing mattresses and eiderdowns years ago. The gannet’s voracious appetite for fish has caused its name to become an uncomplimentary label for human gluttons.